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Tag Archives: laphroaig

Madison, WI – July 12, 2012

I found myself in Madison, WI for an evening recently – and for the first time in my various travels around the midwest.  Being just 90 miles from home was different, but I still managed to hunt down a good cocktail lounge to while away my evening.  The Opus Lounge was my target for the evening.

After reading a few of the Yelp reviews and seeing the menu when I first arrived I was concerned that this would be a menu driven cocktail lounge lacking any real creativity.  Boy, was I wrong, and am I ever glad I was!

The decor is urban chic with a soundtrack to match that ranged from hip hop to acid jazz and many alternative formats in between.  As I scanned the booze behind the bar I saw what I thought were too many flavored vodkas, but then, who doesn’t have too many flavored vodkas these days?  The menu was also full of what sound like fruity, girly drinks and, my pet peeve, is called a martini menu (a martini is a cocktail, and this was a cocktail menu!).  

Fortunately, Marilyn, the bartender on duty, came to the rescue and patiently demonstrated that she and Opus have real cocktail chops.  I ended up sampling three of the menu items, the Dill Collins, an interesting riff on the classic Tom Collins which was very refreshing on a warm summer evening.  This cocktail featured Death’s Door gin over muddled cucumber, dill, lemon and a sugar cube.  Club soda and ice finish off this drink.  It was delicious – the dill was just barely there and added a nice dimension to the drink.

 
Next was the Royal Highness featuring Plantation rum, cassis, bolivar bitters, lime, Domaine de Canton and egg white among its ingredients.  Yes, I said egg white, and when a bar is mixing cocktails with egg white they get my full attention!  This drink evoked visions of tiki torches and tropical beaches for me.  There was a slight coconut flavor, which I could not figure out for the life of me since this drink had none in it.  It did have a smooth, creamy texture courtesy of the egg white and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
 
The third menu item was the Pimm’d Up Bondurant.  Only the second cocktail I’ve seen anywhere using the venerable Pimm’s No. 1 and it was delicious.  This is basically a Pimm’s sour with Domaine de Canton in it.  The ginger of the Canton played off the Pimm’s perfectly.  This sipper was served up in a cocktail glass, but would have worked equally as well in a collins glass on the rocks.
I finished the night with an off menu drink from Marilyn that featured Laphroiag scotch, ginger and lemon flavors.  Again, a homerun that has me wishing I had written down the recipe – but unfortunately, didn’t.  

Bottom line is that if you’re looking for good cocktails in Madison, look no further than Opus Lounge.

June 30, 2011 – Fargo, ND

One of the benefits of my job is getting to find neat cocktail lounges in places I’d never otherwise visit.  The HoDo Lounge in downtown Fargo is just one of those places.

It is located in the historic Hotel Donaldson and draws a crowd as eclectic as the drink menu.  The band added to the fun, playing a mix of original music and covers that kept the crowd moving all night long. 

The first drink that I had was the Firetruck.  It was an amazing cocktail that consisted of St. Germain, seltzer water, and (drum roll please) 10 year old Laphroaig.  Even though there was just a 1/4 oz of the Laphroaig in this drink it comes through loud and clear.  The St. Germain sweetens this up just a bit and softens the peaty flavor of the Laphroig, while the seltzer makes this a tall glass sipper that is refreshing.  An inventive and very interesting cocktail.

The second cocktail of the night was the unusually named Cucular Caley (pictured).  A melange of pomegranate vodka, Hendricks gin, Sailor Jerry rum and cucumbers, all topped with a bit of seltzer, this was an amazing drink.  It was slightly sweet, slightly spicy and slightly fruity, yet still boozy enough to remind me that it packs a punch.  Kudos to the staff for this fantastic cocktail!

With that it was time for me to head back to my hotel and get a good nights sleep before my drive back to Milwaukee.  You can be sure, though, that I’m looking forward to my next visit to Fargo!

Day 108, Cocktails 108 & 109

If Hollywood can make no less than three versions of the movie, I figure I can try three versions of the cocktail.  From the first sip of the first effort at the Blood and Sand I knew that, ultimately, this is the version I’d come up with.  Kind of like a love at first sight thing, do you know what I mean?

Those of you who know me well (that means you Stoffel) will say, duh, of course you were going to end up there.  Even you semi regular readers should not be suprised.

So just what the heck am I babbling about anyway?  Why, the use of Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur in place of the cherry brandy, of course.  That oh so tart maraschino flavor is perfectly complemented by the sweet vermouth and orange juice, with the smokiness of the scotch sitting in the background, nice and mellow.  I can just see the scotch, sitting in a wing backed arm chair, smoking a pipe, trying to decide which of his two loves, sweet vermouth or maraschino liqueur, to go home with.  Aw, heck, take ’em both home!

  Blood And Stan

  • 3/4 oz scotch
  • 3/4 oz sweet vermouth
  • 3/4 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
  • 3/4 oz orange juice

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake to mix and chill.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and enjoy – no garnish necessary.

For the record, I’ve been using Cutty Sark scotch for all these variants.  Feel like something bolder?  Try Laphroaig instead to amp up the peat and smoke flavors.

I’m glad I got that out there and off my chest.  Really, I’ve been thinking about this cocktail since last Saturday!

Round two tonight was a cocktail for Gwen that was inspired by the show “Drink Up” on the Cooking Channel.  Yes, I know that one cooking network wasn’t enough and that we needed another.  At least these guys have shows about cocktails!  It was also helpful that I was able to use a couple of ingredients fresh from the garden.  Really, I mean fresh, as in about 2 minutes from being picked to being in the cocktail!  That’s one of the neat things about summer – there are so many truly fresh ingredients that you can work with right out of your own bar garden.

  Basil Collins

  • 2 oz Hendricks gin
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz bar syrup
  • seltzer water
  • 3 cucumber slices, about 1/8″ thick
  • 1 orange slice, about 1/8″ thick
  • 1 basil leaf

In a mixing glass combine the cucumber, orange, basil and bar syrup.  Gently muddle.  The key here is gentle – you want to leave the basil, orange and cucumber relatively intact while extracting the flavors that each contains.  Add several ice cubes, the gin and lemon juice.  Pour back and forth between two mixing glasses several times to mix.  Finally, pour into a collins glass and top with seltzer water.  Garnish with an orange slice or wedge.

Yet another light, refreshing summertime cocktail.  The fresh basil and cucumber work very well together and with the citrus flavors.  The gin is there, but not overpowering at all.  Mix one up and let me know what you think – or better yet, let me know about your twist on this one!

Cheers!